By Spencer Wilking
By Christina Black
By Calum Marsh
By J. Pablo
By Phillip Mlynar
By Jenna Sauers
By Brian McManus
By Elliott Sharp
To Heartbreak's insensitivity, Ne-Yo's ever-considerate Year of the Gentleman offers empathy, constantly placing its sensitive soul man alongside and sometimes directly in the shoes of a wronged woman, a better vantage from which to constantly chide the other dude—as if faintly chiming in, "You go, girl!" Here, the defendant is often present and dominant; self-sufficient women even excite him on "Miss Independent": "Ooh, there's something about a woman that want you but don't need you." He is very much pandering here—best not to upset the ladies most likely to buy his records, right?—but Ne-Yo nonetheless comes across as informed enough that it's hard to picture him sitting at home secretly humming "Wonder Why They Call You Bitch."
So Kanye won't let you see her side, Beyoncé wants to make sure you see hers but wishes she were on the other side instead, and Ne-Yo just wants everyone to make up, and then make love. But here's the thing about Kanye's lyrically vapid, messily sung album that's the worst in his catalog so far, but that I still really like: A guy I know recently found out that his girlfriend of two years was cheating on him—he has "Love Lockdown" as his ringtone, and "Heartless" is now his anthem the way Beyoncé intends "Single Ladies" (and Ne-Yo intends "Miss Independent") to be mine. In fact, the majority of my guy friends were surprisingly high on 808s. Kanye made this album in his very specific image, yet here he is, speaking for all the sour, brokenhearted males we like to think don't exist—the side of relationships that hip-hop rarely, if ever, speaks of in candid terms. While other genres are steeped in girl-bashing records borne of love, not merely lust, rappers rarely bare their souls about women not named "Mom" at all. With Heartbreak, a visibly and audibly seething Kanye joins in the douchebaggery for once, and hip-hop is all the better for it. It's a new way of seeing, by feeling.
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